A thumb full of mystery pain
July 28, 2008 9:36 AM   Subscribe

What happened to my poor thumb? A few months ago, something strange and painful happened to my right thumb. Over a period of four days, this is how it played out...

Day one: the tip of my thumb and its nail felt a bit tender, as if a little swollen and the skin was stretched. I thought nothing of it, but the next day it hurt more, especially if I pressed down on the nail. I thought I may have a splinter but couldn't see anything; my thumb appeared normal. That night, I awoke to a scary, throbbing, intense pain. My thumb felt and looked a little swollen, and it hurt exactly as if it were being slammed in a window over and over. My imagination ran wild with scenarios of being rushed to the hospital and my thumb being amputated, etc. Stuff that seems silly now, but at the time I was convinced my thumb was about to fall off. I took a couple ibuprofen, held my hand above my heart and waited for the meds to kick in. Eventually the pain subsided enough for me to go back to sleep. The third day: thumb remained tender, but no more pain. I took a couple more ibuprofen before I went to bed just in case. The fourth day: tenderness subsided, my thumb back to normal!

What happened? If it was an infection, why did it come and go so quickly? Nothing like this has ever happened to me before or since. This thumb mystery has been bugging me for months, thanks in advance for any enlightenment!
posted by wundermint to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
Could be a bunch of things. Spider bite. Getting poked by a thorn.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:01 AM on July 28, 2008

You may have broken a vein. I've done it too - it hurts!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:03 AM on July 28, 2008

I once tore a hangnail which later became infected. My thumb swelled to the point where I couldn't bend it. Was better in a few days with some antibiotics and antiinflammatories.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 10:48 AM on July 28, 2008

Once I was cleaning dried, hot red peppers and got a sharp little flake of pepper stuck right underneath the nailbed of my thumb. I couldn't see it. It hurt at first but after a day it felt as though I had smashed my thumb with a hammer. Even then I could not see what was wrong. It stayed that way for two days. Then (icky filter) it came out in a wash of pus and was back to normal in half an hour after that.
posted by jet_silver at 1:39 PM on July 28, 2008

Long shot, but almost sounds like gout...
posted by stenseng at 1:41 PM on July 28, 2008

Several years ago I developed a wart under my fingernail, and it felt quite a bit like this where it was separating the nail from the finger. The pain also came and went a few times before I was able to go to the doctor who figured it out. If it starts hurting again, you might want to check with a dermatologist.
posted by doift at 4:17 PM on July 28, 2008

Response by poster: hm, some of these are possible. I definitely hadn't experienced a thorn prick or a hangnail, because it would have been more obvious what was going on. I thought maybe I had a small cut or splinter under my nail, but why it came and went so suddenly I may never know. Certainly if it happens again I'll get it checked out.
posted by wundermint at 4:44 PM on July 28, 2008

Thing is, when I first started pruning my pyracanthas, I'd get spiked by thorns occasionally and not even think about it. The next day symptoms were like yours, and I'm thinking WTF? It isn't always obvious at the time.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:55 PM on July 29, 2008

Response by poster: Hearing you had similar symptoms, weapons-grade, leads me to reconsider thorns...
it's too far back now to remember specifics about what I had been up to, but I have done a lot of pruning of our rose bush. I said I definitely hadn't experienced a thorn prick because the pain was so localized to right up under the nail - and I think I would have noticed being stuck there. But maybe for my peace of mind I'll lay the blame on those wicked thorns.

Thanks to all who responded for helping me step closer to solving my thumb mystery!
posted by wundermint at 10:10 PM on August 3, 2008

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